The Sullivan County Annual 4-H Clinic and Riding Demonstrations day was held at Oak Ridge Farm, Youngsville, NY on Sunday, May 4. Jill and Pat Welsh offered their spacious indoor arena for the event; which began at 8:30 a.m. and continued on all throughout the day, servicing a number of enthusiastic 4-Hers and their parents. Three clinicians were on hand: Marcy Ehrman, of Liberty, NY; Jeannette Moser-Orr, of Delhi, NY; and Mitzi Summers, of the Albany, NY area.
A good number of horse trailers and assorted vehicles lined the road to Oak Ridge Farm; and the 4-Hers looked forward to an educational and fun-filled day of riding. Participants included 4-Hers from the 4-H Fetlocks Club; Hobby Horse Kids; and Glen Spey Explorers, in addition to independent 4-Hers. There was no entry fee; and the clinicians were paid through the Sullivan County Cooperative Extension’s 4-H program.
Sean Welsh, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Sullivan County’s Youth, Family, & Community Development Team Leader, was on hand and provided information on 4-H’s Riding Demonstration program, which was instituted in 2003. The youngsters were being evaluated in order to comply with 4-H rules and regulations, which now require all young riders to be evaluated for safety’s sake — to make sure children are able to properly control the horse they are riding in 4-H sanctioned shows and New York State Fair.
In order to participate in any 4-H sanctioned activity, such as a trail ride, horse show, Gymkhana or play day, 4-Hers must be evaluated as being capable of riding their horse — or working with the ‘right horse’ to fit the ability level of their activity. For example, if a rider wishes to move up from a Walk-Trot level to Loping or Cantering, they have to be re-evaluated at their ability level. If they are successful in moving up in ability, they can advance as long as their horse advances to that level; if the horse does not advance to the next level, the rider can either stay with the horse at the lower level and wait till they advance to that ability — or go with another horse that matches their ability level.
Clinician Jeannette Moser-Orr taught the morning’s riding clinic and handled the Hunt Seat and Jumping portion of the program. She handled two divisions of these classes.
On hand for the Evaluations part of the program was Marcy Ehrman, Certified Central Riding Instructor and Instructor Mentor at PATH (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship Intl.) and Mitzi Summers, Clinician, Instructor, Trainer, Judge and originator of SUMMERS E.T. Summers Equine Theory.
The day’s events included clinics in Western riding, Hunt Seat, Jumping, and Showmanship. On this day there were three different divisions present: Walk-Trot (riders of any age, classified by ability), Juniors (not classified by ability, but rather by age, 9 – 13 years) and Seniors (as with Juniors, classified by age 14 – 18.)
Mitzi Summers was pleased with the day’s events, having a clinic and the evaluation tied in at the end. She talked about her experience working with the 4-Hers: “I was doing Western today. I had different levels, some could just walk-trot, some that could canter — they need to worry about their leads with the advanced group. I threw in some theory, as I’m sure Jeannette (Moser-Orr) did; she did the English and Jumping outside (earlier in the morning.)
“The first important thing is safety — to make sure that they’re safe and are following the tenets of the 4-H. We have to do a safety check, to check out their footwear, see if they’re wearing their helmets properly, and not over the age that a helmet has to be. With tack, I brought in a Wintec pad as an inexpensive alternative to address saddle fitting, such as if the saddle’s too wide. I had to throw in some basic theory — more classical — I felt they needed that part of it. It’s easy — and to correct things I see, such as the holes in the basic work, the ‘kindergarten, first and second grade’ part.
Those ‘holes’ have to be filled in before they go any higher. I expect them to have pretty decent theory — so if they’re cantering, they need to know about the sequence of the legs, the aids, and why they use them; they’re very important so that they know that’s going on. I try to encourage some theory-thinking of questioning me — like “why do you use your outside leg” so that they know. I stress things so that at horse shows they’re not yanking on the reins… or using an incorrect headset. I’m very happy with all these riders, no one was trying to yank on the reins or trying to get their horses to do that incorrect head set we see in western riding, and so I made sure I was complimenting them.”
There were many smiles on the faces of the riders during and after the evaluations — all seemed to go well and enjoy the day.